Robot Fear Index stands at 30.9

❝ …Consumer adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics is already quite broad, and yet, fear of robots is also pervasive. We fear that they’ll replace our jobs or somehow overthrow us; and to be blunt, those fears are valid. That said, our 2017 survey indicates acceptance for these technologies continues to grow. Our most recent Robot Fear Index value of 30.9 (vs. 31.5 in late 2016) suggests that public perception of robots is essentially unchanged over the last year despite increased awareness of artificial intelligence, robotics, and the potential impact of these technologies. Notably, the related increase in media coverage of these issue does not seem be causing the rise in fear that we might expect. In fact, the slight year-over-year decline in our index value suggests slightly less fear of automation technologies.

❝ We believe that consumer awareness of robotics is closely correlated to the rise of domestic robots within households. Domestic robots are classified as robot vacuum cleaners, mops and lawn mowers, and over the next 10 years we believe this category will be one of the fastest growing robot markets in the world.

Glance through the whole report. Designed as a quarterly evaluation for investors – that, in itself, speaks volumes about the acceptability of robots and artificial intelligence growing in our society.

Personally, I think Gene Munster leads one of the sharpest firms dealing with advanced technology of any American investment firm.

America’s economy rocks — if you live in a blue county


Click into the article for largerLazaro Gamio/Axios

❝ Economic prosperity is concentrated in America’s elite zip codes, but economic stability outside of those communities is rapidly deteriorating.

❝ U.S. geographical economic inequality is growing, meaning your economic opportunity is more tied to your location than ever before. A large portion of the country is being left behind by today’s economy, according to a county-by-county report released this morning by the Economic Innovation Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization. This was a major election theme that helped thrust Donald Trump to the White House…

Not that he has a clue or inclination about repairing any of this.

❝ The fastest growing western cities (such as Gilbert, Ariz., and Plano, Texas) and “tech hubs” (Seattle, San Francisco, Austin) dominate the list of the most prosperous cities in the country. Cities that were once industrial powerhouses in the Midwest and Northeast are now more likely to be on the distressed end of the spectrum, like Cleveland and Newark.

“Today’s jobs are going almost exclusively to people with education beyond high school, and those jobs are going to thriving communities,” said John Lettieri, co-founder of EIG. “It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.”

RTFA. Click through to the article – use the link under the map. Conclusions are wishy-washy. The sort of political analysis that illustrates American dedication to sophistry. But, hey, that’s how the Establishment got to limit the whole political process to two Tweedledee and Tweedledumb parties.

Amazon patents drones wirelessly charging your electric car while driving — Who? Wha?


Click to enlargeReuters/Brendan McDermid

As countries around the world are putting more electric vehicles on the road, they’re also struggling to power those engines. For now, countries are focusing on adding charging stations, but in the future there may be a more mobile option available to drivers: flying drones that come to you.

In early October, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Amazon the patent for developing a drone that can connect to transfer electricity to a car in motion. Amazon filed the application in 2014, the patent document showed…

How cool is that?

In a nutshell, when the vehicle is low on battery, it will contact a central server, which communicates with the car to figure out the amount of energy needed for its intended destination before sending out an unmanned flying machine with some form of battery to service the car. Several authentication steps would be required to prevent malicious use, according to the filing. The new patent might go well with an earlier Amazon application that envisions recharging stations on top of public street lights for flying drones to use themselves.

So, if you’ve been wandering around the countryside in your full-electric AWD Ford Watanabe checking out new fishing spots – and weren’t paying attention to your car’s charged level – the car will do it for you. A new level of Amazon Prime service may be required. And sounds useful to me. If I was still living my life on the road.

Fake President has nothing to do with the “Trump” Rally


Another Republican Golden Shower

❝ The other day, President Donald Trump shared a few thoughts about the stock market.

Like so many of the president’s statements, this one is objectively false. Our charge today is to set aside the political debate, and instead use his statement as an opportunity to explore ways to compare markets and rallies…

❝ No. 1. U.S. Presidential Rallies: As Bloomberg News reported the other day, “the ‘unprecedented’ stock market rally since his election right now isn’t big enough to crack the top five in presidential history.” As the accompanying chart shows, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 19 percent since the 2016 election. That rates better than three other post-presidential elections: George W. Bush in 2004 (7 percent), Bill Clinton in 1992 (10 percent), and Barack Obama in 2012 (16 percent).

❝ …The Trump rally clocks in at No. 7. While that is pretty good — remember that markets fell after some presidents won election — it is hardly unprecedented.

Just as an aside — I am on record as reminding people that all presidents get too much credit when things go right and too much blame when they go wrong. Using market performance as a basis of presidential prestige or lack thereof is the refuge of partisan hacks and scoundrels.

❝ No. 2. Global Rallies: As we have discussed before, looking at a market rally in the U.S. while ignoring gains overseas is a foolish approach to performance analysis…

❝ The president seems to be naïvely making absolute performance claims while ignoring the data on relative performance. Imagine a mutual fund or hedge fund manager making similar claims. The disciplinary fines would be enormous.

Either way, the investing public deserves better.

RTFA for a bit more detail and illustration from Barry Ritholtz. No matter, market gains since Election Day simply have been nothing out of the ordinary.

Trump, as usual, lies like a rug. The fake news comes from a fake president.

Bloomberg: — An Economics Heathen Wins the Economics Nobel

Given how many psychologists and economists have already won the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences 1 — Daniel Kahneman (2002), Robert Shiller, Eugene Fama (2013) 2 — it seems contradictory to suggest that the Nobel Committee is finally recognizing the impact of behavioral psychology on economic decision-making by handing its 2017 award to Richard H. Thaler.

Counterintuitive as that history may make this proposal, it is consistent with the history of the Nobel Prize. It is, after all, funded by money made in dynamite. If any group wants its legacy to be that organizations, governments and companies need to pay more attention to how humans operate in the real world, it’s this one.

Officially, the Riksbank prize was for Thaler’s work on “the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, [showing] how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes.”

Unofficially, Thaler, perhaps more than anyone else, is best described as the father of behavioral economics. The repercussions of his work in helping organizations better understand human behaviors — and why traditional economics has failed so badly at this — are hard to overstate.

RTFA. Go read Thaler. If you’re anywhere near Dartmouth, try to find where Professor Danny Blanchflower is drinking tonight!

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Treasury Department Flunkies Silence Study Showing Trump Tax Plan Won’t Do Crap for the Working Class


Trust me!Alex Wong/Getty Images

❝ Earlier this week, the Trump administration revealed its long-awaited tax plan, the broad strokes of which are massive tax cuts for people like…Donald Trump and corporate America, at the expense of low-income families and the middle class…Of course, even Team Trump and the G.O.P. know they can’t win support for the plan by just coming out and saying, Rich people, this one’s for you; sorry, we’re not sorry, peasants!, which is why they’ve been claiming their framework is all about helping the average American…Lying.

❝ …Until recently, a 2012 paper by the Office of Tax Analysis that could be found on the Treasury Department’s Web site found that “workers pay 18% of the corporate tax while owners of capital pay 82%,” with the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimating that “capital bears 75% of the long-run corporate-tax burden, with labor paying the rest.” In other words, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s claim that slashing the corporate tax rate would disproportionately benefit workers is, to use economic jargon, total bullshit. It’s the rich guys who disproportionately stand to save the most — by a lot.

Mnuchin does what you expect him to do: ❝ The Treasury Department has taken down that 2012 economic analysis that contradicts Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s argument that workers would benefit the most from a corporate income tax cut.

Asked about the curious case of a paper at odds with the administration’s point of view, a Treasury spokeswoman told the Journal, “The paper was a dated staff analysis from the previous administration. It does not represent our current thinking and analysis.”

There’s a surprise, eh? BTW, most surveys never find fewer than 75% of economics professionals agreeing with that paper – and not agreeing with creeps like Trump and Mnuchin.

Someone Tell Republicans it is 2017, Not 1981 — and Trump Ain’t Reagan

❝ It’s not 1981 anymore. That’s the message of an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard, which warns Republicans not to design a tax reform patterned on the one that Ronald Reagan signed in his first year as president.

Mimicking the Reagan tax cuts is a temptation both because of Republicans’ enduring admiration for the 40th president and because his program has been the source of the economic ideas they have championed ever since his time in office.

❝ But the Standard is right that times have changed. That doesn’t mean the Gipper’s basic disposition toward lower and less onerous taxes needs to be junked. It means that today’s Republicans (and Democrats!) need to grapple with four differences between our time and his.

❝ First: The federal debt is much larger now…

❝ Second: The top individual income tax rate is a lot lower than it was in 1981…

❝ Third: The payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare has grown in importance while the income tax has shrunk…

❝ Fourth: The corporate tax rate has become a bigger problem. It has fallen since 1981…But other countries have cut their rates further.

I have my doubt if few – if any – Republicans have the economic smarts to move beyond ideology their electoral base thinks is heavenly writ. Establishment Democrats retain their backbone [or absence of same] problem.

Barnard College Replaces Manager of $286 Million Endowment — Moving to a socially responsible firm

❝ Barnard College is replacing its money manager, Investure LLC, with another firm that’s able to invest its $286 million endowment in more socially responsible companies.

Strategic Investment Group, based in Arlington, Virginia, will become the fund’s manager at the end of September, Barnard said Wednesday in a statement. Investure, run by Alice Handy in Charlottesville, Virginia, had overseen the school’s investment office since 2006. Barnard is at least the third client to depart Investure in the past three years.

❝ In March, Barnard’s board of trustees voted to divest from energy companies that deny climate change, saying the women’s college, which is affiliated with Columbia University in New York, will “distinguish between companies based on their behavior and willingness to transition to a cleaner economy.”…

❝ In 2014, Investure lost Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which decided to divest from fossil fuel companies. Rockefeller Brothers, which has an $816 million fund, hired a unit of Perella Weinberg that customizes portfolios.

Nice to see University admins with sufficient backbone to stand up for principle and science. Anyone think Congress might follow their lead?

The Light from Coal begins to Flicker and Die in Colorado


Valmont Power PlantPaul Aiken/Daily Camera

❝ Xcel Energy Colorado has closed several coal plants over the past decade, usually to address air quality concerns in metro Denver. Those early closures have typically resulted in higher electricity rates for its customers.

But last week, the state’s largest utility made an economic argument for shuttering two of its coal-burning units in Pueblo a decade ahead of schedule, saying the move would address public demands for cleaner energy, significantly reduce air pollution, and lower electricity costs.

❝ Xcel Energy submitted its Colorado Energy Plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, including a request to shut down two units at the Comanche Generation Station in Pueblo with a capacity of 660 megawatts.

Bids will go out to replace that generation later this year, part of a much larger request for up to 1,000 megawatts of wind, 700 megawatts of solar and 700 megawatts of natural gas generation.

“We expect the Colorado Energy Plan portfolio will come in lower than current costs. It will significantly reduce customer bills,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel at Western Resource Advocates, one of 14 groups involved in working out the agreement with Xcel.

As as the cost of producing electricity becomes cheaper and cheaper, the arguments for switching away from internal combustion engines to drive private transport and commerce will die along with the ideology of fools who advocate for suffocation and stillbirth. Profits rooted in unsound technology will drive profit only for fools and those who think they need fools to govern.